The Red Book
By Deborah Copaken Kogan
(Thorndike Press, Hardcover, Large Print, 9781410449160, 583pp.)
Publication Date: July 2012
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The Big Chill meets The Group in Deborah Copaken Kogan's wry, lively, and irresistible new novel about a once-close circle of friends at their twentieth college reunion.
Clover, Addison, Mia, and Jane were roommates at Harvard until their graduation in 1989. Clover, homeschooled on a commune by mixed-race parents, felt woefully out of place. Addison yearned to shed the burden of her Mayflower heritage. Mia mined the depths of her suburban ennui to enact brilliant performances on the Harvard stage. Jane, an adopted Vietnamese war orphan, made sense of her fractured world through words.
Twenty years later, their lives are in free fall. Clover, once a securities broker with Lehman, is out of a job and struggling to reproduce before her fertility window slams shut. Addison's marriage to a writer's-blocked novelist is as stale as her so-called career as a painter. Hollywood shut its gold-plated gates to Mia, who now stays home with her four children, renovating and acquiring faster than her director husband can pay the bills. Jane, the Paris bureau chief for a newspaper whose foreign bureaus are now shuttered, is caught in a vortex of loss.
Like all Harvard grads, they've kept abreast of one another via the red book, a class report published every five years, containing brief autobiographical essays by fellow alumni. But there's the story we tell the world, and then there's the real story, as these former classmates will learn during their twentieth reunion weekend, when they arrive with their families, their histories, their dashed dreams, and their secret yearnings to a relationship-changing, score-settling, unforgettable weekend.
- The Red Book is peopled with a broad range of characters. Discuss how successfully you feel the author wrote from the point of view of individuals of so many different social and financial backgrounds, sexual orientations, ethnic identifications, and religious beliefs. Consider, too, that Kogan wrote from the point of view of people of both genders as well as from vastly different generations. Were all of her characters well developed and believable? Was there a character you felt could have been portrayed differently? (And to what purpose?)